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Against the Clock

Ottawa, April 2019
Ottawa, April 2019

I always have my eye on the clock, on my account balance, on the number of words I translated and on various work deadlines. I also keep an eye on Feng, Mark, my parents, brother, sister, grandparents, friends and many loved ones. I have an eye on the contents of the fridge—we’re apparently out of eggs—, homework, my weight, to-do lists—plural—my goals and a missing LEGO mini figure—“you know, the one with kind of like a snake thing”—that I’d better find before I vacuum. Yes, I also keep an eye on the carpet and the crumbs of daily life I’m supposed to clean up at one point.

Okay, you got me. Between us, I don’t keep track of everything. I’m human, therefore flawed. For instance, I have no clues how many bananas we have left (hopefully enough till tomorrow), I can never remember security codes when prompted and I suck at birthdays. Every Wednesday, I wonder why Mark didn’t touch his lunch because I always forget it’s pizza day (… don’t get me started…) and scheduled PA days (i.e. “teachers are taking a break from your kids” in Ontarian) usually slip my mind.

A couple of hours ago, a perfect stranger at the supermarket checkout queue asked me if I had the time. I almost blurted out “for what? I’m in a rush!” but I caught myself and realized he just wanted to know what time it was. “2:27 p.m., just checked,” I replied without looking at my phone.

These days, the time is the only information I can give straight out because I’m always racing against the clock.

I wish I could pause life, catch up, and then start again rested and up to date.

As I’m sure you realized as well, life is very time consuming. Why does every task, even the most mundane one, take so long? Every time I step into the kitchen, I emerge from it an hour later and no, I didn’t have a long, relaxing dinner—I was cooking, cleaning or supervising homework. Nothing takes two seconds or even five minutes and we are given a set number of hours daily to somehow get everything done. Madness. How could I not be racing against the clock?

I’m always rushing, always moving, always doing something. If I don’t, I have the nagging feeling I should be doing something.

I’ve heard about the concept of self-care. Some people on Instagram even design lovely infographics to present basic reminders in a lovely, relaxing and visually pleasing way.

Unfortunately, their suggestions sound exhausting.

“Take a long, hot bath!” is a popular one. Are you fucking kidding me? Our one bathtub is Mark’s bathtub now, so I would have to 1) remove all plastic toys 2) possibly clean it 3) announce I’m taking a bath, yes, alone 3) buy bubble bath and other essentials. Screw it. I’m taking a shower.

“Make an inspirational or motivational journal.” Awesome. Let’s just start by adding “buy journal, pencil and find time to write random shit with my best penmanship so that I can Instagram it later” to my to-do list. Oh, wait—it just turned into a major shore.

“Sleep earlier and sleep more.” Totally on board with that one. But like, when and how?

I’m afraid to “take it easy” and “just let it go” because it doesn’t sound relaxing at all.

But I’m so focused on going through the day, through the tasks, through a life I don’t particularly enjoy that I don’t have the time to work towards the life I actually want. Bummer.

How do other people do it? I’m not even an important, influential person! I get paid to write grammatically correct sentences and my responsibilities at home mostly revolve around making sure no one is bleeding and the tablet is being shared fairly between father and son.

The world won’t descend into chaos if I stop bringing my meagre contribution. I, on the other hand, might fall apart—being busy makes me feel alive, accomplishing things makes me feel valuable and there’s always the hope at the back of my mind that if I keep on moving forward, good things will eventually happen, I will get somewhere.

Meanwhile, I’m fucking tired.

“Mark! It’s late! Clean up your toys, wash your hands and go eat. NOW!”

“I can’t! That’s too many things to do.”

“So you’re just going stay there, watching TV?”

“Uh… yeah?”

Maybe that’s how I should handle life as well. Sounds like a wise move.

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